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Paternity and any type of rights to the child cannot be established until the child is born. There are two ways to establish paternity. One, by parents signing a voluntary declaration of paternity
, and two, by getting a court order for a DNA test to see if the child is yours. Because there is a possibility that the child is not yours, I would not suggest signing a voluntary declaration, but instead filing for a court order.
You can read more about establishing paternity here
Assuming the paternity tests shows you are the father, then the next step would be to file the Petition for Custody and Support for Minor Child(ren). This is exactly what it sounds like --the petitioner is asking the court to establish a custody, visitation and support order for the child.
Of course, you are free to come to an agreement with the mother
and prepare an agreement for the judge to sign, but if you cannot do so, then you will want the court to decide. I understand that you don't want things to get nasty, but you are but 1/2 of this situation, and I cannot tell you whether it will get nasty or not. You know your ex better than anyone else does.
If a court is left to make the decision, it is going to do sobased on what it believes is in the best interest of the child
, and they look at a variety of factors: who will be the primary caregiver of the child, who is in a better position to support and care for the child, who will foster a good relationship with the non-custodial parent
, whether there is a history of violence or abuse with either parent, etc.
The parent who is not given custody is generally given visitation rights to the child unless it is shown that they are somehow a harm or danger to the child (e.g., they have a history of violence, they abuse drugs/alcohol, are a sex offender, etc).
You can certainly speak to a family law
attorney about handling this matter for you, or, if you want to do it yourself, the forms and instructions on how to fill them out are found here
, on the California Courts website.
Every county Clerk of Court should also have a self-help center or family law facilitator to assist you in filling out/reviewing the documents for you, so take advantage of that if you go about this on your own.
Please let me know if you need any clarification or additional information.